We were in South Africa to speak to David Threlfall and Frances O'Connor on the set of BBC1's Troy: Fall Of A City, which starts on Saturday
It’s a busy day for filming when What’s On TV writer Nick shows up on the set of Troy: Fall Of a City near Cape Town. Horses are needed to gallop through the gates of Troy and their South African trainers are making sure the stampede heads the right way. Although it’s supposed to be baking hot in Greece, it’s the South African winter and the temperatures plummet as the sun disappears, so there are a few shivers as we’re joined by David Threlfall and Frances O’Connor to tell us more about their royal roles….
WOTV: So tell us about the Trojan royal couple Queen Hecuba and King Priam?
Frances O’Connor: “They kind of rule Troy side by side which is a really great contrast. Hecuba is very strong but fair. She loves being a mother too and is especially proud of her warrior son Hector. But she’s got all these boys that she’s brought up and they’ve built this great kingdom together from very humble beginnings. In some ways it’s like a great business empire they’ve created but there’s also a lot of love between them…”
David Threlfall: “You could say the union of the two of them put the city together again as it were. They’re obviously very business savvy.”
WOTV: Is Priam a fair and just king?
David Threlfall: “I guess, although that sounds a little boring. He’s not a tyrant. He’s got a big heart.”
Frances O’Connor: “He’s very warm and genuine.”
WOTV: Is it fun to play a royal couple?
Frances O’Connor: “Oh it’s been really fun to play a royal couple. On the way to set I’d hear some of the crew say: ‘The Queen is coming!’ Funnily enough that really helped me play a royal! We all knitted well as a family. They’re great kids that are playing our kids too!”
David Threlfall: “To be more king-like you do somehow stand taller! I prefer the way that the Trojans are dressed, as opposed to the Greeks in their naughty leather outfits! Trojans are cool and groovy for the times, unlike the Greeks!”
WOTV: The story starts with the royal pair giving away their son Paris as a baby because an omen foretold he’d bring about the destruction of Troy. Then Paris returns to them 20 years later! How do they feel about him coming back?
David Threlfall: “It’s a big shock as they are carrying a secret they’ve dealt with for 20 years…”
Frances O’Connor: “They’re very conflicted because they’ve never really resolved the situation, they just had to move on and get on with life for the good of Troy. So when he comes back they’re confronted with their past and it brings up a lot of issues. It’s how they deal with those that plays out in the drama.”
WOTV: So how does it all affect the king and queen?
Frances O’Connor: “Their feelings towards one another kind of see saw on whether they should welcome Paris back or think it’s a mistake. So they’re involved in a lot of family drama. There’s a lot of great scenes where you see their public selves, then behind that is the contrast of their private world and the conflict they’re going through.”
David Threlfall: “The private stuff we have is probably meatier because it’s very domestic in that sense, without it being modern.”
WOTV: It’s Paris and his affair with Spartan queen Helen that leads Troy into a war with Greece. Is there a big Trojan/Greek rivalry going on among the cast too?
Frances O’Connor: “No we all drink together on a Saturday! The ‘Greeks’ are a little scary-looking on set but the actors are wonderful.”
David Threlfall: “The ‘Greek’ actors may say there’s rivalry but there’s not. They like us! I wouldn’t get on the wrong side of Frances, never mind them! There were games of volleyball and sometimes that split into Greeks v Trojans.”
WOTV: Is that a real beard David or a really good fake one?
David Threlfall: “Yeah it’s real. I was doing something with a beard last year and it’s kind of remained, so it was nicely in place for this role.”
Troy: Fall Of A City begins on BBC1 on Saturday February 17 at 9.10pm